When Minnesota United plays at the Los Angeles Galaxy at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Loons forward Christian Ramirez will essentially have an entire supporters’ section dedicated to just himself.
The striker said that as of Tuesday he had 227 family members and friends coming to StubHub Center for United’s penultimate game of 2017. Add in best friend Miguel Ibarra’s contingent of about 60, plus rookie Abu Danladi’s group, and there will be at least 300 Loons fans in SoCal despite being about 2,000 miles from Minnesota.
“It’ll hit me when we’re on the field, to be able to be in that atmosphere and see my family there and all my friends,” Ramirez said. “I think that’ll finally feel like I made it to the professional level.”
Ramirez, a native of Santa Ana, Ibarra, of Lancaster, and Danladi, who went to high school in Los Olivos, are a few of United’s Southern California products. Defender Kevin Venegas is from Long Beach.
Ramirez said he once played close to home while in the United Soccer League in 2013, but he hasn’t played there in a competitive match since. The feeling now is much different, playing the team he grew up supporting at a stadium that’s about a 20-minute drive from the house where he watched MLS Cups as a fan.
“I went to a lot of games when [David] Beckham and [Landon] Donovan were there, and [Robbie] Keane was there in my college years [at Santa Barbara], so I definitely was always around whenever I could get my hands on tickets,” Ramirez said. “It’s always been like home.”
Ibarra said he also was a Galaxy fan back in the day, watching games with his dad. And having at least one match a year that his family can attend is a perk of playing in MLS.
“My family doesn’t really get to come over here, so just going over there and playing in front of them, it just, it makes me really happy,” Ibarra said. “It’s going to be amazing, just knowing that growing up I watched them play, and now that I’m older, I’m a professional, I’m actually going to be on the field and my family watching. So it’s just going to be like a dream come true, accomplished.”
The Loons left for California on Friday and will stay out West through the season closer on Oct. 22 at the San Jose Earthquakes. So for those West Coasters, it means some rare extended family time.
“For them, it’s obviously going home as well, which is always nice,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “All your family and friends who are around, it’s always nice to play in front of your family and your friends. That’s why [winger] Ethan Finlay wanted to come and play in Minnesota. It’s great for them, and it’ll be nice for us to go there.”
The match is meaningless in terms of this season, as both United (10-16-6, ninth in the West) and L.A. (7-17-8, 11th in the West) are already out of playoff contention. But for the home-state guys, there’s still plenty of significance.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Ramirez said. “It’s the first time I’ll ever play at the StubHub. It’s like a milestone for me, growing up there, going to watch games there. So I’m pretty excited. Probably the biggest game for me now wrapping up the season.”